When my neighbor’s daughter died following a car accident, the neighborhood pulled together and extended an array of kindnesses. Folks they did not know left bagels on their doorstep; others placed additional obituaries in their mailbox, and many sent cards and flowers. My neighbor wanted to acknowledge the thoughtful deeds but was overwhelmed with loss, so I offered to do it for her.
Is it necessary to acknowledge condolence notes, flowers, meals, donations, and other gestures following a death? It is appropriate to do so, and funeral homes often provide cards to the bereaved to do just that.
Some bereaved find the task a positive diversion. It’s a way to keep connected to those who cared for their loved one. Following my mother’s death, I found solace in answering each condolence note. One of my mom’s friends was missing her too and kept a running correspondence with me.
If you are puzzled with what to say, here are some guidelines. Start with your appreciation: “Thank you so much for the donation. It was so kind of you to contribute to the Central Food Bank. My mom loved to volunteer there, and it’s a great cause.” Follow with your thoughts: “This loss is so difficult and reminds us of the importance of family and friends.” Conclude with: “Thank you for thinking of us in our time of need.”
I don’t always receive a condolence thank you note following a donation, and that’s OK. My satisfaction comes from knowing I extended needed comfort. But I sometimes wonder when I do not hear from the bereaved: Did the nonprofit notify the bereaved of my donation? Notes are especially helpful in this regard.
While thank you notes are appreciated, no one should feel obligated to write them if it brings them pain. A friend might be willing to help or take on the task. Or, conduct an online search for personalized condolence thank you notes (or cards). You’ll find a variety of sources that create personalized notes, requiring just an address and postage. Take your time and choose the option that works best for you.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.